Venezuela opposition leader Juan Guaidó calls for uprising against Nicolás Maduro

The move was Guaido’s boldest effort yet to persuade the military to rise up against Maduro. If it fails, it could be seen as evidence that he lacks the support he says he has.

Venezuela opposition leader Juan Guaidó calls for uprising against Nicolás Maduro
An opposition demonstrator with wounds gestures in front of a burning bus, while holding a rock, near the Generalisimo Francisco de Miranda Airbase "La Carlota" in Caracas, Venezuela April 30, 2019. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
English 30/04/2019 16:09 Reuters Caracas Vivian Sequera & Angus Berwick 7 MIN READ Actualizada 16:09
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Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó on Tuesday made his strongest call yet to the military to help him oust President Nicolás Maduro, and violence broke out at anti-government protests as the country hit a new crisis point after years of political and economic chaos.

Several dozen armed troops accompanying Guaidó clashed with soldiers supporting Maduro at a rally outside the La Carlota air base in Caracas, but the incident fizzled out and did not appear to be part of an immediate attempt by the opposition to take power through military force.

Guaidó, in Twitter posts, wrote that he had begun the “final phase” of his campaign to topple Maduro, calling on Venezuelans and the armed forces to back him ahead of May Day mass street protests planned for Wednesday.

“The moment is now!” he wrote. “The future is ours: the people and Armed Forces united to put an end to Maduro’s time in office.

Tens of thousands of people were marching in Caracas in support of Guaidó on Tuesday, clashing with riot police along the main Francisco Fajardo thoroughfare. A National Guard armored car slammed into protesters who were throwing stones and hitting the vehicle.

Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino called the latest instability a “coup movement” but several hours after Guaidó’s announcement there was no sign of any other anti-Maduro military activity. Guaidó later left a rally he was holding with military supporters at the air base.

Repeated opposition attempts to force Maduro, a socialist, from power through huge protests and calls on the military to act have so far failed.

“Nerves of steel!” Maduro wrote on Twitter. “I call for maximum popular mobilization to assure the victory of peace. We will win!”

Maduro, a former bus driver who took office after the death of political mentor President Hugo Chávez in 2013, said on Tuesday he had spoken with military leaders and that they had shown him “their total loyalty.”

The move was Guaido’s boldest effort yet to persuade the military to rise up against Maduro. If it fails, it could be seen as evidence that he lacks the support he says he has. It might also encourage the authorities, who have already stripped him of parliamentary immunity and opened multiple investigations into him, to arrest him.

The United States is among some 50 countries that recognize Guaidó as Venezuela’s President and has imposed sanctions to try to dislodge Maduro, who they say won re-election last year through fraud.

Guaido’s efforts appeared aimed at building momentum toward the May Day mass street protests and making them a turning point in his push to oust Maduro.

Guaidó has said Wednesday’s protests will be the largest march in Venezuela’s history and part of the “definitive phase” of his effort to take office in order to call fresh elections.

Venezuela is mired in a deep economic crisis despite its vast oil reserves. Shortages of food and medicine have prompted more than 3 million Venezuelans to emigrate in recent years.

The slump has worsened this year with large areas of territory left in the dark for days at a time by power outages.

Guaidó, the leader of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly, in January, invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency, arguing that Maduro’s re-election in 2018 was illegitimate.

U.S. President Donald Trump “has been briefed and is monitoring the ongoing situation,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said on Tuesday. The White House declined to comment on whether the administration had been consulted or had advance knowledge of what Guaido was planning.

Carlos Vecchio, Guaido’s envoy to the United States, told reporters in Washington that the Trump administration did not help coordinate Tuesday’s events.

“No. This is a movement led by Venezuelans,” he said.

But Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, who is loyal to Maduro, blamed the United States.

This is directly planned in Washington, in the Pentagon, and Department of State, and by (National Security Adviser John) Bolton,” Arreaza said.

Bolton, a foreign policy hawk, backed Guaido’s actions on Tuesday. “The FANB must protect the Constitution and the Venezuelan people. It should stand by the National Assembly and the legitimate institutions against the usurpation of democracy,” Bolton tweeted, referring to the FANB armed forces.

Maduro has appeared to retain control of state institutions and the loyalty of senior military officers and has foreign allies such as Russia and Cuba.

Maduro has called Guaidó a U.S-backed puppet who seeks to oust him in a coup. The government has arrested his top aide, stripped Guaido of his parliamentary immunity and opened multiple probes. It has also barred him from leaving the country, a ban Guaido openly violated earlier this year.


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